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Desmond Are Tokyo

Hipsters Love Irony

by Sean Magner / 15.08.2011

Desmond Are Tokyo – a documentary of Desmond and the Tutus’ 2010 Japanese tour shot and produced by Andrew Berry of We-Are-Awesome – is a project that reeks of potential unfulfilled. The Tutus’ kwela-jive being mixed and juxtaposed with unique Japanese quirk seems like such a perfect pairing. I love Desmond quite dearly and I don’t have too much of a problem with We-Are-Awesome, either. But this one fell way short of the mark.

Desmond-Are-Tokyo. Teaser. from we-are-awesome on Vimeo.

As the trailer above suggests, the documentary is, at first glance, packed with as much vibrancy as the music in the background but a jumbled thirty minuter later it leaves you feeling somewhat short-changed, as if a major opportunity has been missed.

I always get a feeling of apprehension when approaching the Labia Theatre. The judging eyes seem to pierce even the most vintage of jackets. Perhaps it’s because I wasn’t born and bred in Cape Town, or perhaps I’m just a little too self-conscious. I was expecting a party upon arrival; alas the droves were already headed for those shitty seats.
Entering the Batcave that is the main theatre, the smell of day-old popcorn and new Adidas threads wafted about. Nic, the Tutus’ bassist, thanked us all for coming. The audience seemed to giggle in reverie of the charm that the band seems to evoke. With that, the lights went down and the documentary began.

Desmond Are Tokyo was shot in a fairly rudimentary way. Granted the Tutus are a lo-fi bunch, the cheap and cheerfulness of the production echoes some of the same sentiments as their music. In the bits of the film where the band ramble and riff on each other it’s not far off of a Vince Noir and Howard Moon Dialogue from The Mighty Boosh, it’s effective – but sadly, the punch-lines were often flaccid as a direct result of the bad sound. An attempt was made to include subtitles, but the harshness of the background noise was far too distracting to focus on anything else.

Desmond Are Tokyo

As it progressed, I began to wonder if the rest of the audience was struggling with the intense mind-fuck the narrative presented. Although I knew the story, there was no introduction to lead the audience in. The simple progression from Tokyo, to Osaka, to Fukuoka, to Kyoto. Berry seems to assume too much on behalf of his audience and I was lost as to where on earth we were being taken and why. Add to this the almost constant repetition of scenes.

To his credit, Berry’s eye is present in some of the establishing shots, clean, angular and precise, much like his photos. However, once the camera starts moving it begins to look amateur and shoddy. A tri-pod would’ve gone a long way.

The live footage, which one could argue was the whole purpose of the documentary, was poor. Desmond’s energetic performances were reduced to anaemic convulsions. The sound quality reminded me of that common drunken impulse: “let me film this on my cellphone”.
When I woke up the next morning I wondered why I had even bothered.

As the documentary ended a tangible WTF moment rippled through the audience. An opportunity for both the band and Berry to create something that could both define and showcase the Tutus was lost. The disappointment was apparent – personified by the audience’s stifled applause and faint laughter. Sadly this documentary couldn’t be written off as an attempt at irony.

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RESPONSES (21)
  1. Anonymous says:

    Such a good review.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    “the smell of day-old popcorn and new Adidas threads wafted about”

    Did it really? This isn’t a Grade 10 creative writing assignment.
    I do agree with most of it though. Argument could have been better.

    7/10

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  3. Sebastian says:

    This “intimidated by hipsters / capetonians” schpiel is growing a beard
    Hipster is just another kak word you learnt on the internet
    Think of a new excuse for not liking stuff please

    I was there. It was fun. Everyone was nice and polite.
    The movie was DIY, fun and pretty inspiring – looks like the folks in japan enjoyed it
    Crowds in cape town can learn a thing or two about having fun watching a band from those kids

    Crabs in a bucket eh

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  4. Anonymous says:

    bourgeois bullshit= we-are-awesome
    love= the tutus

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  5. Anonymous says:

    Andy, a quick thought – please ban the use of the word hipster on mahala from now on. We get it. It’s been got. Let them do their thing and let’s find more creative ways to diss on shit we don’t like. It appears that you’re not allowed to move nowadays without some unimaginative clown crying hipster.

    Good review though.

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  6. Sebastian says:

    Agreed – you okes on mahala are always harping on about cultural identity and that sort of stuff – yet you love this imported, internet bred word – hipster

    seriously, south african english has a thousand better words for describing a chop

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  7. YsterHart says:

    Only hipsters moan about hipsters

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  8. Roger Young says:

    Shorthand is sometimes necessary. Typing out bearded-tweed-and-vintage-wearing-hat-doffing-obsure-music-listening-artistes-slash-layabouts-or -advertising-slash-afda-students every time gets old fast.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    @Roger, fair enough. Music journalist also has too many syllables.

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  10. Hmmmmmm, lets see says:

    “bearded, obscure music listening artiste (writer?), layabout” + old + drunk + sloppy = ?

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  11. Roger Young says:

    Yeah, yeah, but there is only one of me, so there is the handy term, Roger.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    Good review man

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  13. Anonymous says:

    Fucken ‘hipster’. ‘Only hipster’s moan about hipsters.’ Jesus Christ. Really? Really really? Like, for realsies? This is SO godamn boring. If someone dresses well, and likes music they are not a hipster. If someone does the same, but is a phony… well, they’re just someone trying to fit in. NOT a hipster. If this was the 90s would we be moaning about grunge kids? Oh, wait, we might.

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  14. gaga lover. says:

    “When I woke up the next morning I wondered why I had even bothered”

    Honestly? Then why the fuck did you bother in the first place?
    Why not leave it up to someone who actually appreciates film and music.
    I can assure you they would’ve loved the evening.
    Don’t do things just cause you’re ‘commissioned’ to.

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  15. Anonymous says:

    Um, yeah ok “gaga lover”. With an alias like that and sweeping statements about “music and film appreciation” I think you should best shut your mouth. Don’t do things just because you’re ‘ignorant’.

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  16. tanyadejongh says:

    sean magner, this is amazing.

    hipsters be hatin’

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  17. gaga lover. says:

    @anonymous
    hate all you want
    we all know you’re a troll on here
    looking for things to make your day
    pity commenting on posts is all that rocks your boat

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  18. Wilson says:

    Jesus, Mahala readers love to moan. Stop nit-picking and grow the fuck up, it’s a good review on an obscure film. Thanks Sean.

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  19. Chad says:

    Everyone really needs to go back to their fucking bridges.

    Someone said this: “If Mahala isn’t careful it’s going to become that kid who gets invited to the party who ends up crashing over and puking on the couch. And nobody wants to invite that kid around again.”
    Trolly McTrollellsons, teh internetz are mad fun for teh funning, but bridges, now., quickstep.

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  20. mark says:

    Human society is massively based around social standing. A lot of what we do, we do simply because of the way that it will effect us socially, whether you choose to admit it to yourself or not. No one wants to be the odd one out so they will point fingers at others like “hipsters” in order to protect the of the authenticity of their “cool” lifestyles. So essentially the people who single out hipsters are just making their monkey tactics all the more obvious.

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  21. mark says:

    Human society is massively based around social standing. A lot of what we do, we do simply because of the way that it will effect us socially, whether you choose to admit it to yourself or not. No one wants to be the odd one out so they will point fingers at others like “hipsters” in order to protect the of the authenticity of their “cool” lifestyles. So essentially the people who single out hipsters are just making their monkey tactics all the more obvious.

    Oh and by the way I love desmond and the tutus! Unfortunately I didn’t see the documentary but I’m sure the writer of this article is justified in his opinions.

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